06 September 2011

What's good?

While at the cabin called Sidetrack, I read both of the library books that I'd brought with me. There's an interesting library there of books we've finished at the cabin and left behind as reminders, but I wasn't interested in starting a major reading project. So I picked up Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver. It was (and still is) on the bedside stack of potential reading.

I only read a couple of the essays, but one of them addressed a topic that I've wondered about here, why do I like some books more than others. I do know that my state of mind has a lot to do with my affection for a book. But there are other reasons. For instance, I really do like a well-told story.

Here are a couple of Kingsolver's comments that had me shaking my head in agreement. They are from "What is a good story?" that she wrote about her experience editing a collection of short stories.

Her first answer sounds like a textbook declaration: "What makes writing good? That's easy: the lyrical description, the arresting metaphor, the dialogue that falls so true on the ear it breaks the heart, the plot that winds up exactly where it should."

A couple pages she later, she is more personal: Good writing, she says, "should pull off the successful execution of large truths delivered in tight spaces... It will tell me something remarkable, it will be beautifully executed, and it will be nested in truth..."

I'm not sure I demand "large truths," but the rest of what Kingsolver says sounds to me like a good beginning definition of good writing.

By the way, her praise for short stories, tempts me to look up the volume she edited and read some short stories. She wonders in her essay why people don't read much short fiction. I usually avoid it. I wonder why?

Do you read or avoid short stories? Why? Write and tell this little bit of the world.

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